Tag Archives: ethics

Involving volunteers: a cop out for paying staff?

Nurses in the Philippines are angry. They are being forced to work for free, or for a stipend on which they cannot live, while the hospitals where they are working call them “volunteers.” Some hospitals are even charging nurses for their “volunteer” work experience. Thousands of graduate nurses are paying hospitals and working for months without salaries under the guise of “training,” so the nurses can gain work experience and have an improved chance of being employed as a regular staff eventually. As a result of this exploitation, nurses have filed cases against four hospitals through the Philippines Department of Labor and Employment – National Labor Relations Commission in February and March. Nurses have also sought the help of a Philippines political party, the Ang Nars Party, which has been using its Facebook page to highlight their campaign against what they are calling “false volunteerism”. (Thanks, oh-so-awesome DJ Cronin, for the heads up about this situation!)

You can read more about this situation at the Nursing News, March 2, 2017, but be warned: this is a click-bait site, packed with advertising banners and in-text advertising links.

I am, of course, outraged about this situation in the Philippines. It’s the same outrage that prompted me to call on the United Nations to defend its involvement of full-time, unpaid interns. It’s not only horrible that these nurses are being exploited; these kinds of actions create campaigns opposed to some or all volunteering (unpaid work). No doubt the hospitals in the Philippines have happily talked about the value of volunteering only in terms of money saved in not paying staff, just as ILO, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, UNV, and others have encouraged them to do.  The result of this exploitation will be a further backlash against all volunteering in hospitals in the Philippines – and beyond. The fight against unpaid internships hurts volunteering. And all of this is because so many organizations see volunteers only as a way to not pay staff, to save money.

If you do not have a  written statement that explains explicitly why your organization reserves certain tasks / assignments / roles for volunteers, including unpaid interns, and that statement has NOTHING to do with not having enough money to pay staff, then you have no business involving volunteers, or unpaid interns, or whatever it is you want to call people you aren’t paying for work.

Good luck to the nurses in the Philippines. And good luck to hospitals in justifying future engagement of volunteers after making so many enemies to the term.

Also see:

That moment when you totally change your mind about volunteer engagement

wizardAn email I received a few days ago. I’ve changed it a bit to hide the identity of the author:

I want to thank you, sincerely, for challenging me to think about my understanding of volunteering. You really got me thinking. I had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of me last night, and the discussions around mandated community service and volunteerism kept rolling around in my mind. In my current role, I haven’t really had to think about court mandated service as volunteering and from personal experience, I don’t know if those mandated, would consider themselves volunteers? I am trying to resolve this, for my own benefit at this stage, and I am finding it quite difficult! I intend on mulling this over a bit more. I trying to consider the benefits/detriment of either belief…. Challenged? Yes!

I love making people uncomfortable about volunteer engagement. I love challenging oh-so-solid notions about who is and isn’t a volunteer, the value of volunteering, and why people volunteer. Why? Because volunteer engagement is so much bigger than just, “We’ve got work to do. Let’s get some good-hearted people to do it for free!”, and I so want this mentality to change!

The results of this? I’ve made people angry. I’ve made people tear up. Some people have double-downed on their oh-so-rigid definitions. But most, while challenged, have also been inspired. They don’t all come to the exact same conclusions as me regarding volunteer engagement and its value, but they definitely broaden their original ideas.

I remember my big ah ha moment regarding volunteer engagement, via an event by Triumph motorcycles. And my blog, Should the NFL involve volunteers for the Super Bowl?, talks further about why I changed my mind about volunteers supporting for-profit settings, in certain situations.

Want me to challenge your organization? Complete details about my consulting services.

Also see:

Have you ever changed your mind?

Volunteer manager Fight Club

Kentucky politicians think volunteers are free

Seal_of_KentuckyKentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin, a Republican, is working to end kynect, the state’s widely-lauded health insurance exchange and one of the most successful under the federal Affordable Health Care Act. His proposal will transition enrollees to the federal health insurance exchange. His new health care plan would also require “able-bodied” adults on the plan and without jobs to take a job training course, get regular job counseling, or do community service for nonprofit organizations.

Last week, administration representatives were asked at a committee meeting by Kentucky State Representative Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat, if any state funding had been allocated to support the cost of background checks for volunteers required to do community service. The answer was that “any nonprofit that chooses to conduct background checks would need to cover the costs.” In other words, the state government will require community service of certain people, and expects nonprofits to accommodate these people with volunteering opportunities, but will not cover any of the costs associated with screening the people, let alone the substantial costs of training and supervising them.

There was also a concern voiced at the meeting about volunteers being asked to cover the cost of their own background check; many organizations do require this, and the people being required to do community service in order to keep their health insurance will largely represent people with low incomes. This issue was identified by Kentucky State Senator Julie Raque Adams, a Republican, as a “red herring;” Adams asserted that many organizations don’t really need criminal background checks, and she based this assertion on her children’s volunteer experiences.

All of the aforementioned information was related by the Kentucky Nonprofit Network via their Facebook page and an article in The Interior Journal, serving Lincoln County, Kentucky.

Senator Adams’ comments about background checks, and those of representatives of the governor’s office, are deeply disturbing, showing a woeful lack of understanding of volunteer engagement and risk management, one that is similar to the US Congress. As noted by the Kentucky Nonprofit Network:

The perception of societal benefit and an overwhelming need for volunteers by the sector seemed to outweigh any recognition of the realities of the true costs of managing a volunteer program (or influx of volunteer requests) – supervision, management, support, background checks (including the reality that this isn’t a luxury – it may be required to protect vulnerable populations), etc. Perhaps this is true – is there a dire need for volunteers?

The network is asking this question via Facebook – and so far, no nonprofits are saying, “Hurrah! An influx of volunteers! Just what we needed!”

It’s obvious that the Governor’s office did not do any research regarding nonprofits in the state and their needs regarding volunteers, and certainly no research regarding the substantial costs associated with involving volunteers.

In addition, K.J. Owens of Louisville won applause from the overflow crowd in Frankfort at a public hearing regarding the proposal when he said the plan “seems motivated by the concern that poor people are defective morally . . . that poor people just aren’t trying hard enough. The people on Medicaid are in no more need of moral guidance than the governor and the people on the governor’s staff.”

On a different but equally disturbing note, Bevin’s proposal also would eliminate dental and vision coverage now included in Medicaid Several other speakers expressed the same concern about excluding dental benefits in a state with some of the worst oral health in the nation, including one of the highest rates of adults with no teeth.

More information about the proposal, as well as a platform to comment on this proposal to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, can be found via the website chfs.ky.gov, and I call on all nonprofits back in my home state, all volunteers for those nonprofits, and anyone who cares about this issue, to give feedback via this state web site!

Congrats to the Kentucky Nonprofit Network for focusing on this issue. That’s what state agencies should be doing, and too many do not. It will be interesting to see if AL!VE (Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement) will address this issue at all. This is a big deal, and nonprofits all over the country, not just in Kentucky, need to pay attention!

Let’s hope Bevin doesn’t get any ideas from the U.K.’s disasterous Big Society efforts from a few year’s back (UK as in United Kingdom, not the University of Kentucky…).

Update: August 14, 2016 letter to Deputy Chief of Staff Office of the Governor, Matthew G. Bevin from Danielle Clore, Executive Director/CEO, Kentucky Nonprofit Network. It asks very tough questions about this proposal – which have not yet been answered.

Volunteers are NOT free.

Selling community service leads to arrest, conviction

justiceThe most popular blog I’ve ever published, by far, is an exposé of a for-profit company based in Florida, called Community Service Help, Inc., that claimed it could match people have been assigned court-ordered community service “with a charity that is currently accepting online volunteers” – for a fee, payable by the person in need of community service. But the community service was watching videos. The company was selling paperwork saying people have completed virtual volunteering, that those people then turn into probation officers and the courts. The practice is at least unethical, and, according to at least one state, illegal.

While I have no issue with a nonprofit organization, or even a government agency, charging a volunteer to cover expenses (materials, training, staff time to supervise and support the volunteer, criminal background check, etc.), I have a real problem with companies charging people to fake community service. And as a promoter of virtual volunteering since 1994, before I even knew it was called virtual volunteering, I also have a real problem with someone claiming watching videos is online volunteering. And, for those that might not know, here’s what real, legitimate virtual volunteering looks like. And here’s a wiki about virtual volunteering with even more detailed information.

Community Service Help isn’t the only company selling paperwork to people that need community service hours for the courts, and I’ve mentioned some of the other companies that are pulling off this scam in several blogs (all linked from the end of this one). Actually, I should it wasn’t the only company – its web site went offline in January 2016 and is now for sale. Hurrah!

Companies like Community Service Help post frequently to Craigslist, and I try to keep up on these folks, especially news stories about them, but somehow, I missed this story from 2014!

Caffeine group admits community-service scam

By JENNIFER PELTZ – Associated Press – Thursday, August 7, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) – An anti-caffeine activist pleaded guilty Thursday in a scheme to make court-ordered community service as easy as taking an online quiz.

Marina Kushner and the Caffeine Awareness Association, a group she founded, each pleaded guilty to a false-filing felony. Kushner’s promised sentence includes a $5,000 fine – and 300 hours of legitimate community service.

“A community service sentence is a public and personal responsibility,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said last week in unveiling the case. Kushner’s lawyer, Peter Schaffer, declined to comment Thursday.

Kushner, 47, was arrested recently in Delray Beach, Florida. While Manhattan prosecutors became suspicious after a local defendant filed a letter from the caffeine association to satisfy a community service sentence, questions also had arisen in Washington state and Oregon about a “fast community service” website linked to the group.

The association still exists, offering debunked claims about caffeine, but there’s no page anymore on its web site, at least that I can find, called “quick community service.”

I’ve written and sent a letter to Mr. Vance, thanking him for his pursuit of this company. I’m hoping other prosecutors all over the USA  will take similar action. These companies damage nonprofits, damage courts, damage the idea of community service.

Is it possible, or even appropriate, for people that have been assigned community service hours by the court to do some or all of those hours online? Are they eligible for virtual volunteering? Yes, they are. Here’s detailed advice on supervising online volunteers in court-ordered settings, which I hope nonprofits, probation officers and court representatives will read. And note that Community Service Help and other similar companies would not hold up to the scrutiny recommended in this blog.

My other blogs on these companies that sell virtual volunteering and other community service in order to fool probation officers and courts, which include links to the various media articles about these companies:

Haters gonna hate, November 2014 update on Community Service Help and other similar, unethical companies

Community Service Help Cons Another Person – a first-person account by someone who paid for online community service and had it rejected by the court.

Online community service company tries to seem legit, a November 2013 update about efforts these companies are making to seem legitimate

Update on a virtual volunteering scam, from November 2012.

What online community service is – and is not – the very first blog I wrote exposing this company, back in January 2011, that resulted in the founder of the company calling me at home to beg me to take the blog down

Online volunteer scam goes global, a July 2011 update with links to TV stories trying to expose these scam companies

Courts being fooled by online community service scams, an update from November 2011 that is the most popular blog I’ve ever published

OPB & Congress Think Volunteers are Free

It’s bad enough that more than 30 miles of dirt trails and primitive roads in Deschutes National Forest in Oregon were deliberately wrecked in 2014 by unsupervised volunteers who were supposed to be doing necessary, environmentally-appropriate trail maintenance, causing more than $200,000 in damage and who, according to this story on OPB News, are still being allowed to do trail maintenance.

But the comments in the OPB story by politicians and others about the role of volunteers has my blood boiling, not to mention that OPB did not call any volunteer management experts, such as those that are a part of the Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association , to find an Oregon-based professional manager of volunteers to talk to, to find out about the vast amount of volunteer management resources and expertise that could help make things better and about the very high standards of various volunteer engagement programs. Or call Susan Ellis, the world’s foremost trainer and publisher regarding the management and support of volunteers. Or ME, right here in Oregon and registered on the OPB Public Insight Network to offer commentary regarding volunteer engagement!

The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, sponsored by Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, has been proposed recently in the USA Congress. It would strongly encourage government agencies to increase volunteer involvement in trail maintenance, but it doesn’t include funding for agency oversight of volunteers – it doesn’t include any money for volunteer management, for recruiting volunteers, screening them, supervising them, etc. Why does it lack such funding? Well, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, a co-sponsor of the act, in his comment to OPB, shows exactly why:

“We don’t have the resources at the federal level to maintain these trails. And yet there’s a group of volunteers out there willing to do the work.”

Could you hear the unspoken “for free” at the end of Walden’s sentence? I could! In short: We have all this work to do. Let’s get some people to work for free to do it. That is a great summation of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. And as any seasoned manager of volunteers or trainer knows, that’s a JOKE we frequently tell at conferences and workshops when trying to show what bad volunteer management looks like. Because NO ONE volunteers for that reason, and because of the implication that volunteers are free – and we know volunteers are NEVER free. Someone has to pay for the volunteers to be appropriately recruited, screened, trained, supervised and supported – otherwise, you end up with tragic consequences similar to what happened in Deschutes National Forest- or worse.

That’s the crux of all these stories from OPB about what happened in Oregon and about this pending bill: volunteers save money! That’s why they are involved!

Here’s a proposal for those managing public lands, and something OPB should consider in future stories about any volunteer engagement, good or bad, at any agency: maybe volunteers are actually the best people to undertake certain activities, like running campgrounds, teaching about Leave No Trace principles and staffing the front desks of ranger stations, not because they are unpaid, but because such involvement allows members of the public to experience first-hand how public lands are administered and how to support the public in experiencing them. Or because of the particular passion or approach volunteers bring to the task that paid employees might not. Or because members of the public might like interacting with a volunteer, rather than someone paid to be there. Or because volunteer involvement is per an organization’s commitment to create opportunities for the community to participate in the org’s work and offer feedback that isn’t financially-based (they aren’t being paid) and endorse the importance of public lands through their investment of time. Say volunteer involvement is part of an organization’s commitment to both transparency and in creating opportunities for community investment in its work. Involve volunteers because it allows people to be involved in the administration and enjoyment of public lands without having to give up whatever they do professionally. Those are reasons that INSPIRE people to volunteer – not, “we have all this work to do, please come do it.”

Emphasizing the money saved in involving unpaid staff also tends to create hostilities with paid staff, who are often angry at the idea of volunteers being involved in order to eliminate paid positions (and they SHOULD be angry at such comments!). The links at the end of this blog explore this and other dangers in emphasizing that the primary reason to involve volunteers is because they aren’t paid.

Instead, organizations that administer public lands should create a mission statement for your volunteer engagement that has NOTHING to do with saving money. And learn to talk about the value of volunteer engagement. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t involve dollar figures.

Oh, but wait, there’s more…. there’s the comments in the story from Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, a national watchdog organization. First up from him:

“Relying on volunteers, as well-intentioned as they are, doesn’t always yield good results.”

The implication, of course, is that volunteers are unreliable, can’t be trusted, are incompetent, etc., and that paychecks are magical and make people better workers – thus, only paid employees can do such work properly! Here’s what the quote SHOULD say, to be accurate:

Relying on untrained, unsupervised volunteers, as well-intentioned as they are, doesn’t always yield good results.

And we could substitute the phrase “paid employees” for “volunteers,” and the new sentence would be accurate as well.

Mr. Stahl also made my head explode with his outrageous statement:

“it would be nice if we could hold volunteers to high standards, for even acceptable ones, but you get what you pay for.”

What an insult to every volunteer firefighter, every volunteer emergency rescue person, every Peace Corps member, and every other volunteer out there that goes through hours and hours and hours of training, over many weeks, even months, often right alongside professionals, to master the skills necessary to do their very serious, even dangerous work. These volunteers are held to high standards – and volunteers who can’t meet those standards are FIRED. They are removed from service, just like a paid employee. That loud “bam” you heard if you were listening to the OPB story in Oregon? It was me, hitting the table in front of me out of outrage over this shameful, insulting statement. My dog is still terrified of me over that.

Kevin Larkin, district ranger for the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District in the Deschutes National Forest, had to learn of the vital importance of the basics of volunteer management the hard way. He says now, “It’s not as simple as welcoming a volunteer through the door, handing that person a shovel and saying, ‘Go do good work. There’s direction, guidance and attention that’s needed.”

Oh, Mr. Larkin, there are vasts amounts of resources that could have helped you manage and support these volunteers right from the get go. Some resources are free. Many aren’t, but they cost much, much less than $200,000. I wish you had known about them, and I wish you had the funding to tap into them – the books, the workshops, the conferences… even university-level certificate programs on managing volunteers.

Congress must realize volunteers aren’t free, and that there will be financial costs in involving volunteers in trail maintenance on US public lands – and that they are going to have to fund those costs. Otherwise, we’re going to have much bigger bills in terms of trail damage – and worse. I’ve created this petition at Change.org, calling on the bill’s co-sponsors to amend the act so that it provides the resources necessary for this increased volunteer engagement on public lands to be successful. If you are in the USA, or you are a USA citizen abroad, please read over the petition, consider signing it, and share it with your network!

And OPB: next time you are doing a story about volunteers, please call me, or the Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association, to find a volunteerism expert to comment on your story, give you guidance, etc.

Also see Volunteers trying to help on their own, a blog about how DIY “trail improvements” by unsanctioned, unsupervised volunteers are causing serious damage to a nature preserve, and what to do if you discover that an official volunteer of your organization is doing activities in the name of your organization but outside of the approval of your program.

For more on the subject of the value of volunteer or community engagement:

social media used to prank journalists during live event – again

“In the end, accounts of the shooting from @JewyMarie made it into reports from the AP (and The New York Times as a result), the International Business Times and an on-air interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. There is obviously a person behind @JewyMarie’s Twitter account, but the person’s accounts of events are fake. While embarrassing, the ordeal is a reminder that a person’s word is not proof. People lie. Anonymous people on the Internet lie – a lot.”

This is from a blog by the Society of Professional Journalists. It’s an excellent caution for anyone looking for information during a breaking news event.

What a great lesson this would be as part of the class on media literacy I long to teach…

Learning from a nonprofit’s failure

logoA couple of the nonprofits where I have worked over the last 30 years have closed for good. I don’t count my time at either agency as enjoyable, and I don’t mention either on my résumé. It was many of the things that made these places so unenjoyable for me (and others) that ultimately lead to their demise. But both organizations did teach me quite a bit in terms of how not to run a nonprofit.

As I read an article today by some of the board members that tried to save one of those organizations from closing its doors, I shook my head at the level of denial about what they said the problems were at the organization: they lamented how they were unable to find that one big donor that would have saved the organization with an annual massive donation and connections to friends who would also have made an annual massive donation.

Here are the actual reasons the organization closed:

  • The organization’s leadership never made an effort to connect with and serve the many diverse communities that made up their region. It’s not at all a cohesive community. It’s a community that’s known worldwide for people working in high-tech, but it’s also a community with a massive Hispanic population – both new immigrants and third, fourth, even fifth-generation families. It’s a community with massive wealth, but also massive poverty, with a homeless population that’s one of the largest in the USA. There’s no one style of music listened to by most people, no one type of food eaten by most everyone there, no one set of religious values most people in the region adhere to – it’s not a melting pot but, rather, a tossed salad of diverse thoughts, beliefs and lifestyles. This now-closed organization didn’t initiate meetings with representatives from the many different populations that make up the area, to talk about how to serve them better or better reach different people. There were no special employment or volunteer recruitment efforts to attract staff from those different communities – in fact, there was no volunteer engagement scheme at all outside of having ushers at events (almost always the same people, people just interested in getting community service hours rather than doing something to serve the organization’s mission). Programs were developed in a bubble, and leadership just never understood why people outside that bubble didn’t participate.
  • The organization never successfully marketed its fee-based programs to groups. Group sales are everything when you are trying to sell something for a price, something that people have to pay something for to be a part of. You must have a crackerjack person, or team, that knows how to sell blocks of items or event tickets in order to generate the proper amount of income. Successful ballet companies, art museums, live theaters and other arts-based groups know this. Roller derby leagues in the USA — all nonprofit — know this. For-profit sports leagues know this.
  • The organization didn’t really try to cultivate young people as participants. People that grow up participating in a particular activity often want to continue to participate in that activity as adults. Integrate your nonprofit program offering into schools, and you will have, in a few years, new supporters, new donors, and new participants. It takes more than just having a “youth day” or one “youth event.”
  • Leadership didn’t engage with the leadership of other nonprofits. There were no regular meetings, formal or informal, with others serving the community through nonprofit services, and, therefore, no relationships – instead, other nonprofits were seen as competition for audiences and donors. The long-time head of the organization’s programming was particularly isolationist, and saw no need for building professional friendships with other nonprofit leaders. Without those relationships, the organization wasn’t hearing about what was important in the region it served, wasn’t hearing fresh ideas, wasn’t learning new approaches that could have helped improve their own offerings.
  • Leadership ignored criticism. Certain actions by this organization had ignited hostilities of some rather outspoken folks who claimed to represent a certain population of the area, and such has received a lot of media attention. I’m not sure if those criticisms were legitimate, but they were loud and they created a mindset about many people about the organization that was quite negative. The organization chose to ignore that criticism, rather than sitting down not only with the people claiming to represent that group, but with other representatives from that group to find out if they felt the same way and what might be done to build bridges. Instead, the leadership said, internally, “This isn’t our audience anyway,” and took no action.

During my brief time working there, I was frequently reprimanded for how I approached things regarding public relations and marketing. An example: I marketed one program in particular so well that it became one of the best-attended in the organization’s history, but my boss told me that I had not done a good job, because I’d marketed the program to the large gay community of the region, and he didn’t want people thinking of the organization as “a lesbian” one. I once lined up several media representatives to interview a member of senior management, in order to create a blitz of coverage for our organization in a variety of publications, and she cancelled most of the interviews at the last minute, saying this one wasn’t really worth it, that she wasn’t in the mood to do another one, etc.

It’s strange that so many of the things I did at this organization that were so disliked by senior management have ended up getting me hired elsewhere, and have lead me to be successful at other organizations. Because I was so passionate about the organization’s mission, the experience was even more painful. But as a result of what I witnessed in my brief time at this now-failed agency, ties with the community is one of the first things I evaluate when I take on any communications or management task. I look to answer lots of questions:

  • What do different people from different populations say about this organization?
  • Are the different populations that make up our community represented among our employees and volunteers, and/or among the active participants in our programs? Who are we missing, and why?
  • Does this organization have lots of people making small donations, or is this organization funded primarily by just a few big donors and grants?
  • Are there people that don’t like this organization and, if so, why, and how should we address that?
  • Are media reps seeking our leadership out for stories, even to just comment as experts on a particular issue they are covering – and if not, why not?
  • Do emails, calls and tweets from the media get answered promptly?
  • Do we monitor social media about this organization and what people are saying?
  • What nonprofits are doing similar work, or are also serving this region, and what is our relationship with them?

I’m so sorry for the people that have lost their jobs because of this organization’s closing. I hope they have learned as much as I did as a result of their experience there, and I wish them the very best of luck.

Should the NFL involve volunteers for the Super Bowl?

Taking a break from promoting The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook to talk volunteers and the Super Bowl (for those outside the USA, that’s the National Football League’s championship game).

In a story by the New York Times, Alfred Kelly, the chief executive of the New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee, estimated that 9,000 people would serve as volunteers in the days leading to the Super Bowl . That is far fewer than the 20,000 who were initially contemplated. Those numbers are down because the NFL opted to hire temporary paid workers for positions in which volunteers had typically been used. The decision was an apparent response to a class-action suit against Major League Baseball in the USA, which did not pay volunteers at the All-Star FanFest in July 2013.

It took me a LONG time to find out what volunteers actually *do* for this billion-dollar nonprofit with millionaire staff. From what I can tell, volunteers are at sites like airports, hotels and various transportation hubs days before the game to direct city visitors to whatever they need – transportation, bathrooms, etc.  And if that’s the case then – hold on to your hats – I’m fine with those roles being filled by volunteers. Why? Because, in those situations, I think these roles are best filled by volunteers – people who aren’t there for any financial gain, who want to be seen as volunteers, specifically, in doing these tasks: I’m here because I want to be here, because I love football and love my city, and I want to make you feel welcomed. But if volunteers are asked to do anything else – selling anything, cleaning anything, moving or hauling things, etc. – I have a HUGE problem with having these roles filled by unpaid staff, because I don’t see why volunteers would be best of those roles other than the NFL getting out of not paying people.

Even if the NFL wasn’t, officially, a nonprofit organization (which, by the way, I find that outrageous, IRS!), I would feel this way about its volunteer-involvement. Why? Because if I truly believe that some activities are best staffed by volunteers, NEVER as a money-saving activity but, rather, because unpaid people are best in that roles, I have to believe it for every sector.

Back in the summer of 2010, I attended an event by Triumph motorcycles in the city where I was living at the time (Canby, Oregon). The company had brought about 20 motorcycles you could sign up to ride, on group rides, every 30 minutes. The Triumph truck traveled all over the USA to bring these events to cities all over, and these Triumph events were staffed primarily by VOLUNTEERS. Because volunteers are “free”? Nope (volunteers are never free!). It was because an event attendee talking to a volunteer — someone who owns at least one of the motorcycles in the line up, and owned at least one other probably at some point, who can speak passionately about the product, who wants you to get to have the experience they have been having, and who won’t get any commission from a sale and doesn’t rely on this activity for their financial livelihood — is in such contrast to talking to a salesperson or paid staff person. The few paid staff there stayed in the background, there to fill in blanks and maybe to make a sale, but volunteers were the official spokespeople. It gave the event a total no-sales-pressure feel from a customer point of view – it was just a day to enjoy Triumph motorcycles.

I’ve never forgotten that experience. And it’s one of the reasons why I’m not ready to condemn the NFL’s involvement of volunteers. At least not until I can see what exactly it is that they do.

UPDATE: an article from The Star Ledger about what NFL Super Bowl volunteers did in 2014. Note – 1500 ambassadors were paid. Did those paid folks do the SAME work as the volunteers, or something more/different?

And now, back to promoting The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.

Also see:

Have you ever changed your mind?.

Learning, learning everywhere, a blog about where I find new marketing and volunteer engagement ideas (spoiler alert: it’s not at conferences or workshops)

Why I liked an anti-crowdsourcing Facebook page

On Facebook, I’ve just liked “Crowdsourcing Sucks,” which I originally found on Twitter under crowdsource666. Its motto: “Crowdsourcing, the scourge of the graphic design industry.”

How can a person such as myself that has been an evangelist for virtual volunteering, including crowdsourcing, since the 1990s, like this person or organization or whatever it is?

Because I do see his/her/their point.

I don’t trust a nonprofit organization that doesn’t involve volunteers in some way – but I also don’t trust an organization that talks about volunteers in terms of hourly monetary values of service given, as this says, “We involve volunteers because we don’t have to pay them! Look at the money we saved in not having to hire someone to do this work!” There is far greater value of volunteer involvement than that.

So, rock on crowdsource666.

Also see:

Pizzeria tries to recruit unpaid interns, feels Internet’s wrath

Ah, the smell of volunteer exploitation in the morning…

Roberta’s, a famous, hip restaurant in New York City that sells $18 pizzas is (was?) seeking “unpaid interns” to work in its community garden.

Yes, I find it outrageous. And so did a LOT of folks.

Here is a blog I wrote back in May 2012 about various organizations recruiting unpaid interns, and the interns being upset at being called “volunteers.” The title, When to NOT Pay Interns, is meant to be provocative, but, make no mistake: I’m on the side of those interns that SHOULD be paid – like those at Roberta’s.

Note: some of the links in the blog may not work; I just switched blog providers, and while all of the blogs transferred over no problem, I’m still working on fixing the links. And as I’m not a not-for-profit organization, and as I cannot afford to pay an assistant, no, I am NOT recruiting “unpaid interns” to help me. Argh.